Women’s rights groups have welcomed a “historic decision” by the Jordanian parliament to abolish a law that allows rapists to escape punishment provided they marry their victims.
The lower house of Jordan’s parliament voted on Tuesday to eliminate article 308, which allows rape charges to be dropped as long as the rapist marries their victim and stays married for at least five years. The law stems from a belief that marriage can lessen the stigma associated with rape.
In a heated debate on Tuesday, some lawmakers argued that an amended version of article 308 was needed to protect rape victims against social stigma by giving them the option of marriage. However, ultimately they voted to abolish it.
Suad Abu-Dayyeh, Middle East consultant for Equality Now, a global legal advocacy organisation, said the vote was “a historic achievement in Jordantoday”. Those who argue marriage offers protection to rape survivors are wrong, she said. “From all aspects it is really to revictimise the woman. She is going to a place where she is not welcome. Because she is coming form a rape background his parents will not accept her. ”
Jordanian parliamentarian Wafa Bani Mustafa, who has campaigned to end the law, said last week that parents often agreed to such marriages to minimise “family shame”, but she said no girl should be “presented as a gift” to her rapist.
The decision is now expected to be approved by parliament’s appointed upper house, and by King Abdullah II. When the law is repealed, Jordan will join a growing number of countries that scrapped their “marry the rapist” clause. Tunisia did so last week, while Morocco overhauled its law in 2014 following the suicide of a 16-year-old girl and the attempted suicide of a 15-year-old who were forced to marry their rapists. Egypt repealed its law in 1999.
Campaigners hope Lebanon, which is discussing amending or abolishing a similar provision, will follow. In Lebanon, rights group Abaad has campaigned against the law with billboards of women in bloodied and torn wedding gowns. The caption reads: “A white dress doesn’t cover up rape.” In April, campaigners hung white wedding dresses from nooses on Beirut’s seafront.
“Jordan is a very good example because it is located in the heart of the Middle East,” said Abu-Dayyeh. “People look to Jordan because is a relatively stable country and it cares about the international community.”
In addition to Lebanon, countries with similar laws include Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria and the Palestinian Territories.
Jessica Neuwirth, founder of Donor Direct Action, said Jordan now needed to ensure the law was enforced and victims were given support. “Whatever resources and services she needs as part of her recovery and rehabilitation should also be provided,” she said.
“The idea that the judicial system should stay out of what is ‘family life’ means that such extreme forms of violence have continued under the cloak of silence for far too long. It has given rapists permission to find loopholes, with which they can reduce or completely avoid punishment for what they have done. They are also given permission to continue to perpetuate abuse in a way which lets them off the hook for their crimes. Meanwhile, the girls and women they rape are forced to permanently live with the horror they inflict.”
Culled from https://www.theguardian.com/